After a few years of bad scheduling luck, Ohio State faces a pretty exciting non-conference slate this upcoming season. The Buckeyes travel to Oklahoma in perhaps the most anticipated non-conference game of the entire football season, but also face Bowling Green and Tulsa, two exciting non-Power 5 programs that should compete for bowl games, and light up the scoreboard. Of all the criticisms that could be thrown at Ohio State next season, “they ain’t played nobody” shouldn’t be one of them.
Ohio State has taken aggressive steps to make that more of the norm. After their home-and-home with Oklahoma finishes, Ohio State will have home-and-homes with other power programs like TCU, Oregon, Texas and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes also have their next four years completely scheduled out, with teams like Cincinnati, and programs that could bounce back, like Tulane and Oregon State, joining the major anchors of each year’s schedule. Coupled with annual games against Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, Ohio State’s future schedules should be solid.
That aggressive scheduling means Ohio State isn’t likely to announce another major scheduling announcement for a while. Ohio State doesn’t have a year without a major game scheduled until 2024, after the Notre Dame and Texas series expire (and they have a road trip to Boston College scheduled that year). They don’t have an open date at all until 2020, where they have two open spots around a road trip to Oregon.
We already had one scheduling announcement this offseason, when Ohio State announced they’d host Tulane in 2019. Who could the Buckeyes add for 2020, their next open dates?
2020 is a long way away. Before we attempt to answer this question, here’s a few assumptions we made:
- The Big Ten conference schedule isn’t set for 2020. There’s a chance that the conference could move another Ohio State conference game up to September, like they’re doing in 2017, when Ohio State opens the season at Indiana. For our purposes, we are assuming a more conventional Big Ten schedule for 2020, meaning Ohio State will look for opponents on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, and Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.
- Typically, Ohio State doesn’t schedule two power teams in one season. It’s difficult to arrange overlapping home-and-homes, and coupled with a Big Ten East schedule, playing two big name teams is probably too much to ask. Ohio State is scheduled to face Texas and Notre Dame in 2022 and 2023, but that appears to be an exception (and could still be moved). It is probably a safe assumption that Ohio State is going to travel to Oregon and play say, Florida State, in the same season.
- In most cases, Ohio State probably wouldn’t look to play a Group of 5 program they already played in recent memory. So programs like UCF, Buffalo, San Diego State, Hawaii, etc, weren’t considered.
With that in mind, we combed through FBSchedules.com to see what schools share 2020 open dates with Ohio State, to figure out who might potentially be added to the schedule.
The top candidates
North Carolina: Okay, I know I just got done saying Ohio State probably wouldn’t schedule two power programs in a row, but UNC just might be the exception. First, last year’s divisional championship aside, UNC historically hasn’t been an elite program and might be just non-intimidating enough to pair with Oregon. The Buckeyes and Tar Heels were also previously scheduled to play each other, a series that died with the Big Ten expanded to nine games, and UNC needed to move some things around. If UNC wanted to come to Columbus in 2020, OSU could return the trip after 2025. It’s a long shot, sure, but it’d be the most fun. Ohio State is 3-1 against UNC all time, with their most recent meeting occurring in 1975.
Virginia: Ohio State has shown it’s willing to play multiple P5 programs in one year, as they scheduled Oregon State and TCU in 2018. UVA has no early season games scheduled for 2020, although they do have a November road trip slated for ODU. The Cavaliers typically don’t play two road games a season, so this would also be a longer shot of happening. But the P5 possibilities for 2020 are a bit slim. Ohio State is 1-0 against UVA, clobbering the Cavs 75-0 way back in 1933.
Houston: Tom Herman almost certainly won’t be coaching the Cougars in 2020. Heck, maybe he’s coaching Ohio State by that point. But given the school’s financial commitment to the sport, their new infrastructure, and their run of success over the last few years, it seems like a reasonable bet that the Cougars will field a decent team, no matter who is coaching. Houston has an open date on Sept. 19, to pair with a home game against Rice, and a road trip to Kansas. Ohio State is 1-0 against Houston all time, beating the Cougars 52-0 in 1994.
The middle tier
Toledo: After playing MAC and in-state teams fairly regularly from the mid 90s through the 2000s, Bowling Green in 2016 is the only MAC team currently on Ohio State’s schedule. There aren’t many teams MAC programs with open dates for these dates, but Toledo is open on Sept. 16, and is almost certainly the best bet for a competitive game. Ohio State is 3-0 against Toledo.
Akron/Kent State: These are the other two teams that have open dates, as the Zips are open on Sept 5, and the Golden Flashes are free on Sept 19. If Ohio State needs to play a lower-level G5 program, playing a team from the state of Ohio may be best for fan interest, and for keeping some of the money in the state. Ohio State is 3-0 against Akron and 3-0 against Kent State.
Utah State: After years of futility as one of the worst teams in FBS, Utah State has quietly become one of the stronger G5 programs in the country, weathering coaching changes and QB attrition. Making any projection this far is a crapshoot, but it seems like a fair guess that Utah State could give the Buckeyes a better game in 2020 than many other teams on this list. Ohio State and Utah State have never played.
Western Kentucky: Similar situation as Utah State, only substitute a high flyin’ offense for a tough defense. WKU also has the added bonus of being much closer to Columbus. Ohio State has never played Western Kentucky.
Kansas: Technically, Kansas is a Power Five football program. They might be decent by 2020! Who knows? The Jayhawks are open on Sept 5. The Buckeyes and Jayhawks have never played.
Open on Sept. 5: Charlotte, Air Force, Nevada, Wyoming, Appalachian State, Texas State, Troy, Coastal Carolina
Open on Sept. 19: Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, Colorado State, Wyoming